The State Security Agency (SSA) has told parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) that while everyone in the government’s employ may be vetted and flagged for a criminal offence, some heads of institutions use “their own discretion”.
The agency’s delegation, led by State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, briefed the committee on its vetting procedures on Tuesday.
Quizzed by committee member Ntombovuyo Mente of the EFF on the levels of discretion and vetting and how, for example, the man accused of the rape and murder of University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana in August this year was allowed to work for the post office, even though his carjacking conviction from 1998 was known to post office officials in June 2018.
The post office previously said the information was not shared with its board or executive.
Its preliminary investigation and findings confirmed the accused’s employment had not followed the institution’s routine recruitment process.
The SSA’s acting manager for vetting and evaluation, Chester Dau, responded, saying: “The law allows for institutions to use their own discretion. Heads of institutions are allowed to accept the risk of someone who has been flagged by the SSA being in their employ”.
The response unsettled all and sundry, with Mente asking who would be held accountable for the end result in the example she had presented.
“That man is in a public space, dealing with people’s personal information and goods,” she said.
Dlodlo said an overhaul of some of the present regulations in dealing with vetting procedures was needed, adding she had tried to do this since her term began.
“We need to take away the discretion part of the regulation.”
Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said heads of institutions who take on the risk that ends in tragedy, such as the Mrwetyana case, “should be part and parcel of those in the dock and that the regulations should look into enforcing that”.
“You cannot assume risk and then not be held accountable for what happens afterwards,” he added.
The agency has set down September 2020 for the review of the minimum information standards and the fast-tracking of the approval vetting regulations.